Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Myoko Torisaka castle -Irreconciable conflict after god of war (5) intervention from outside-

Myoko Torisaka Castle

-Irreconciable conflict after god of war (5) intervention from outside-



Name: Myoko Torisaka castle (Myoko Torisaka-jo)
Place: Himegawara Myoko city, Niigata
Location: 36.99174969243101, 138.25966998271707
Type: Mountain Castle
Built: 15th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 

Brief History

Continued from Part 4

Myoko Torisaka castle (妙高鳥坂城) is located over Shiroyama mountain, one of about 200 meter height from hillside in the north part of current Myoko city. Castle site is located at the north edge of the body of Takayuka-yama mountain, which spreads like a diamond shape of 5 kilometer long and 2 kilometer wide between Seki-kawa river and Katagai-gawa river.

Castle site is at the south edge of Takada plain, and also a barrier from Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) to Joetsu area of Echigo province (Niigata prefecture). At the east castle site current Road 292 from Iiyama area runs, and at the west of the mountain Route 18 from Nagano area through Nojiri area passes. Castle site is at the middle of two roads and could control of both.

Origin of castle

The origin of Myoko Torisaka castle is not clear. It is recorded Sukemori Jo (?-?) and his aunt Lady Hangaku (?-?) who was known as an excellent female archer resided and fought with Kamakura Shogunate army at this castle, but actually the castle of Jo clan was Tossaka castle at Tainai city has same character but different pronunciation.

About 2 kilometer north of Myoko Torisaka castle, there is Kamo Shrine which seems the residence of local lord faces former Arai town between Yashiro-gawa river and Seki-kawa river. Torisaka castle might be built as a mountain fortress of the lord of Arai area to be used in case of emergency.

In the beginning of 16th century, Tamekage Nagao (1486-1542), the father of Kenshin Uesugi (1530-1578) and deputy governor of Echigo province, rebelled against Fusayoshi Uesugi (1474-1507) who was the governor of the province and became substantial leader of Echigo province.

As Tamekage Nagao was supported by Takanashi clan, which was the major local lord of Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) which had territories at current Nakano city, Iiyama city and Nojiri area through marriage, Tamekage might think importance of Myoko Torisaka castle as connecting point to the territory of Takanashi clan.

Castle protected border to Shinano province

After 1550, Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), the warlord of Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture) also captured middle part of Shinano province, further expanded his territory northward to Nagano basin. From 1552 to 1564 Kenshin Uesugi who was the successor of Tamekage Nagao fought against Shingen at Kawanakajima in the south part of Nagano basin five times. 

Sometimes Kenshin Uesugi tactically broke Shingen Takeda, but before the plot of Shingen Uesugi side lords including Takanashi clan gradually lost its territory. In 1561 Takeda army proceeded to the border area of Lake Nojiri area, and in 1564 Biwajima castle at Lake Nojiri-ko just at the south of the border was temporally captured by Takeda army.

To secure Kasugayama castle (Niigata prefecture), the main base of Uesugi clan just 3 0 kilometer apart from the border, Kenshin strengthened border castles such as Iiyama castle (Nagano prefecture), Biwajima castle or Myoko Torisaka castle. Especially Myoko Torisaka castle was the last defense line of Takada plain from southward then it might be reformed by latest technology by Uesugi clan.

Structure of Myoko Torisaka castle

Central area of the castle is a 20 meter long square area with the basement of turret, and secondary area is about 50 meter long and 20 meter wide, which has a gate at south line and encircled by the line of horizontal dry moat. At the east of secondary area, numerous small terraces continue to halfway which might be used as camping space.

At the north of core area, ahead of combination of deep dry moat, three large terraces all are about 50 meter long and 20 meter side continues along the ridge. Side slope of this part is protected by combination of vertical dry moat, and at the north edge of this area the whole shape of Takada plain is well seen.

At the south of core area, there is a front side fort build utilizing small peak. This fort is securely protected by thick clay wall and deep dry moat, and worked as Umadashi area not seen in other castles of Uesugi clan. Total size of the castle is about 600 meter long and 300 meter wide, and this size of the castle is next to Kasugayama castle, the main base of Uesugi clan, in Joetsu area.

Existence of strong outsider

After the death of Kenshin Uesugi, an internal conflict between two successors Kagekatsu Uesugi (1556-1623) and Kagetora Uesugi (1554-1579) named “Otate no Ran” occurred in 1578. At this conflict, castles at the border to Shinano province (Nagano prefecture) such as Myoko Torisaka castle, Samegao castle (Niigata prefecture) or Iiyama castle all belonged to Kagetora Uesugi.

The reason of this movement might be the existence of Katsuyori Takeda (1546-1582), the warlord of Kai province and successor of Shingen Takeda. As Takeda clan allied with Hojo clan, the warlord of Sagami province (Kanagawa prefecture) and home of Kagetora Uesugi, Takeda clan was thought to support Kagetora Uesugi.

Takeda clan suffered severe defeat at the battle of Nagashino before central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) in 1575, and suffering the attack of Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the warlord of Mikawa province (east part of Aichi prefecture) and an ally of Nobunaga. But it still had a strong army at the outside of game board of two players.

Failure of intervention by Ashina clan

Upon the outbreak of internal conflict, Kagetora Uesugi asked his home Hojo clan to intrude into Echigo province and break Kagekatsu Uesugi. But just at this time Hojo army faced Satake clan, the warlord of Hitachi province (Ibaraki prefecture) at current Chikusai city area, then could not send their army to Echigo province quickly.

Instead of sending themselves, Hojo clay asked their allies Katsuyori Takeda and Ashina clan which was the lord of Aizu basin to intrude into Echigo province and assist Kagetora Uesugi. Ashina clan formerly attempted to proceed to Echigo province promptly attacked Ikazuchi castle (Niigata prefecture) near the border in May 1578.

But Ashina army was repelled by the army of Kagekatsu Uesugi and suffered defeat losing commanders and soldiers. The scribble of Ashina army stating the defeat remains at the neighbor temple. Due to this failure Ashina clan could not intervene to the internal conflict again and the authority of the lord declined.

Move of Takeda army to border

At the same time in May 1578, Hojo clan requested Katsuyori Takeda to march to Echigo province from Shinano province, to support Kagetora Uesugi besieged at Otate castle (Niigata prefecture). Katsuyori order his cousin Nobutoyo Takeda (1549-1582) to lead Takeda army then Nobutoyo visited Kaizu castle (Nagano prefecture, later Matsushiro castle).

Even declined, Takeda army mobilized over 15,000 soldiers. In response to this, Kagekatsu Uesugi and Kagetora Uesugi might have 5,000 soldiers respectively, and if Takeda army and Kagetora Uesugi merged there is almost no possibility of victory for Kagekatsu Uesugi. 

As border castles toward Shinano province belonged to Kagetora Uesugi, there was a fear that Takeda army could easily reach to Kasugayama castle, the main base of Kagekatsu. In the beginning of June, Katsuyori Takeda moved to Kaizu castle, to command the operation to Echigo province by himself, and the invasion of Takeda army was imminent.

Enter of Takeda army into Echigo province

Among desperate situation, Kagekatsu Uesugi did not give up and sent a messenger to make settlement with Takeda army, to Nobutoyo Takeda and Toratsuna Kasuga (1527-1578, famous as Masanobu Kosaka) who was the commander of Kaizu castle faced Uesugi army long time.

However, thinking by common sense, Takeda clan was an ally of Hojo clan, the house of opponent Kagetora Uesugi, and Kagekatsu had no deterrence to stop Takeda army then the possibility of settlement seemed low. Not ignoring the messenger but Takeda army marched to Arai area of current Myoko city near Myoko Torisaka castle, across the border in the beginning of June 1578. 

At this time Myoko Torisaka castle belonged to Kagetora Uesugi and did not resist against Takeda army. Takeda army approached to one day march distance from Kasugayama castle, Myoko Torisaka castle at last actually faced Takeda army, and Kagekatsu Uesugi was exactly forced to the corner.

Afterward of castle

After the cease of internal conflict, survived Kagekatsu Uesugi appointed his retainer Katagiri clan as the commander of Myoko Torisaka castle. As the territory of Uesugi clan such as Nojiri area or Iiyama area was given to Katsuyori Takeda, Myoko Torisaka castle might be the frontline of Uesugi clan toward south.

After the fall of Takeda clan in 1582, north part of Shinano province was held by Nagayoshi Mori (1558-1584), the commander of central ruler Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582) who ruined Takeda clan. Next Nagayoshi Mori intruded into Echigo province to make side attack to Uesugi clan toward Nihongi area just at the side of Myoko Torisaka castle, but there was no record of the battle at the castle.

Just after that Nobunaga Oda died in the incident of Honnoji, a coup d’?tat by his commander Mitsuhide Akechi (1521-1582), the Nagayoshi Mori who lost his lord retreated to Shinano province and left there. Utilizing the disorder Kagekatsu Uesugi recovered Nagano basin, then front line of Uesugi clan returned to Shinano province. Myoko Torisaka castle might be abolished after that.

Now no building remains on the mountain but structures of castle well remain on the mountain, even though marginal area is covered by bush. From south edge of castle the full shape of Takada basin is seen toward the Sea of Japan, and it is not clear if Takeda army entered into the castle but might see the same view to decide which side to support, that decided the result of the internal conflict.

Continue to Part 6


30 minutes drive from Joshinetsu Jidoshado Expressway Nakago interchange to parking of Takayukayama Koen park. 20 minutes walk from parking to castle.

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Pictures (click to enlarge)

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